Thursday, 27 February 2014

How to hypnotize a chicken

method for hypnotizing a chicken

A few years ago, I had posted a video showing a cool trick that can be used to hypnotize a chicken.  In today's post, we will dig a bit more into this whole chicken hypnosis thing.

The trick
The trick is quite simple. All you have to do is hold the chicken's head down against the ground, and draw a straight line using a stick, your finger, a piece of chalk or whatever.

The line should start at the beak and extend straight outwards, in front of the chicken. If done properly, the chicken -or rooster- will be put into a state of trance and lie still for anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes!  To de-hypnotize the chicken, just clap your hands or give it a gentle push. It may take a few tries to awaken the bird. Here is a video demonstrating the process:

This strange animal behaviour is officially called 'tonic immobility', a natural state of semi-paralysis that many animals exhibit when under threat. Commonly known as apparent death, playing dead and playing possum, this state serves as a defensive mechanism as most predators prefer live prey.

In chickens, this is most probably a vestigial trait as it doesn't seem to have a useful purpose. The chicken doesn't make a good job hiding the fact it's still alive. Its obvious that is breathing and we can see some eye movement and blinking.

Who discovered the trick?
I guess we will never know the answer to this. Probably a farmer with lots and lots of free time!

Most farmers are familiar with the trick as the method is passed down from generation to generation. The first known written reference comes from the 1646, in "Mirabile Experimentum de Imaginatione Gallinae" by Athanasius Kircher, a 17th-century German Jesuit scholar and polymath who published around 40 major works.

Other Methods
Using a straight line is not the only way to hypnotize a chicken. Here's a video demonstrating 2 more methods to get the same effect:

And here is another video, this time using a perpendicular to the bird line:

Why hypnotize a chicken, some may ask. It's harmless and fun, so I guess it's ok when done in moderation :)

References & Related Links
- Bryan Jones, R., & Faure, J. (1981). Tonic immobility (“righting time”) in laying hens housed in cages and pens Applied Animal Ethology, 7 (4), 369-372 DOI: 10.1016/0304-3762(81)90063-8
- Gallup GG Jr, Nash RF, Potter RJ, & Donegan NH (1970). Effect of varying conditions of fear on immobility reactions in domestic chickens (Gallus gallus). Journal of comparative and physiological psychology, 73 (3), 442-5 PMID: 5514679
- How to hypnotize a chicken videos


  1. Just tried this with my chickens. Didn't believe it would work but i was so wrong!!!!! LOL. They provide me with eggs, meat and now lots of fun :D

  2. I never really thought of animals being able to get hypnotized. when we think of people getting hypnotized we normally do it because it is fun. I find it neat that animals use these as a defense mechanism. hypnosis can be used for a lot of things and I think its a good idea when doctors use it when doing procedures to reduce pain. if hypnosis really works to reduce pain what else could hypnosis be good for?